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Corbyn: new Brexit deal and second referendum within six months is realistic

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

By Patrick Daly, PA

Labour's bid for a new Brexit deal and a second referendum within six months is "realistic", according to Jeremy Corbyn.

The party leader told supporters in Harlow, Essex, that a June deadline for fresh exit terms with the European Union and then putting it to a public vote would be "do-able" if Labour wins the December 12 election.

"The deadline we have set for ourselves is a realistic one," said Mr Corbyn.

"Keir (Starmer) and I have spent many, many hours in Brussels and other European capitals going through our process with governments, officials and other socialist parties across Europe.

"We wouldn't be saying this if we didn't think it was realistic and do-able."

The tight timetable would see Labour required to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement within three months - the same time it took Boris Johnson to win revisions to Theresa May's terms - and then put it to a second referendum against Remain within another 90 days.

It took 12 months to legislate and arrange the 2016 referendum after David Cameron's Conservatives won power.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir, addressing supporters and journalists before Mr Corbyn took the stage, said he would negotiate a deal that included "a customs union, single market alignment and protection for rights and the environment", and argued it could be "secured quickly".

Addressing critics who say Labour should have taken a side in the Brexit debate before the election, Mr Corbyn said he wanted to "listen to the whole country" as a prospective prime minister.

He accused the Tories of siding only with Leave voters, and the Liberal Democrats, with their position of revoking Article 50 if leader Jo Swinson wins a majority, of looking to "turn one side of the Brexit debate against the other".

"People sometimes accuse me of trying to talk to both sides at once in the Brexit debate, to people who voted Leave and Remain," he said.

"You know what? They're right. Why would I only want to talk to half the country?

"I don't want to live in half a country. Anybody seeking to become prime minister must talk to and listen to the whole country.

"Vote for Boris Jonson and you get a trade deal with the US and everything that goes with it."

Expressing one of the central tenets of Labour's campaign, he accused the Prime Minister of "trying to hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS", and said US and UK officials had been "discussing drug pricing in secret" since Mr Johnson entered Downing Street.

Campaigners, who hit the streets of Harlow with Mr Corbyn after the speech, chanted his refrain of "not for sale" back at him.

The Islington North MP said it would not only be the NHS that was in danger in a UK-US trade deal but also food standards.

Mr Corbyn said the PM was preparing to "unleash Thatcherism on steroids" once trade talks start.

"Given the chance, they'll slash food standards to match the US, where what are called 'acceptable levels' of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed, and they'll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves," he predicted.

Taking questions from journalists, he dismissed talk of a coalition with another party and labelled Nigel Farage a "one-trick pony" after the Brexit Party leader confirmed he plans to target Labour Leave voters at the election.

"He doesn't actually offer anything to any of those communities. Our message and our manifesto is about investing in all parts of this country," said Mr Corbyn.

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